The Long Island Youth Orchestra celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, all because of a suggestion.
Before LIYO founder and director Martin Dreiwitz launched the orchestra in 1962, he taught privately. Some of his students and parents suggested he create an orchestra. He did just that, receiving encouragement from parents and education leaders. Word spread, and teachers began recommending students. The orchestra grew and now has more than 3,000 alumni.
“I hope to start a change reaction where music will be apart of their life forever," said Dreiwitz, a former professional claritinest who graduated from New York's High School of Music and Art and the University of Chicago.
LIYO, the oldest on Long Island has called Long Island University's Post campus home for 27 years. The Dean of Liberal Arts at that time encouraged Dreiwitz to move his orchestra on campus and spoke with members of the music department. Soon after, LIYO began to practice at the campus.
The young musicians ranging in age from 14-18 practice in the Musical Rehearsal building Sundays while in session from 8:45 am until noon. Three of the four season concerts are held on the campus.
The goal of the orchestra is to bring gifted youth together, allowing them to work on challenging pieces that are not usually offered within the typical high school band. The young orchestra spends their time learning the works of great composers, including Virgil Thompson. Thompson lived from 1896 to 1989 and composed in almost every genre of music. His music was influenced by clarity, simplicity, irony and humor. LIYO performed one of his works at itsconcert in May.
The orchestra also aims to teach the young musicians technique, and build their skill level for those who wish to follow music through college and possibly turning it into a career.
“If they want to become professional, we are giving them experience,” Dreiwitz said.
LIYO alumni Scott Dunn joined the group when he was 14. Nearly 21 years later, the orchestra is still a part of his life. In 2006 he became the assistant conductor – up until that point Dreiwitz ran the operation.
Dreiwitz spoke about Dunn’s transformation from a very talented trombone player to a now fabulous conductor. After Dunn’s time in the orchestra he received his undergrad in music education from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts and his masters in conducting and trombone from the Cincinnati Conservatory.
Dunn said the most rewarding element he took away from LIYO was the breath and wealth of repertoire. In September when Dreiwitz retires, Dunn will carry on the orchestra, hoping to maintain repertoire within the orchestra.
“I’d like to continue his legacy," Dunn said, referring to Dreiwitz. "This should be available to students at little or no cost to them, and as a service to the community.”
LIYO has influenced its members.
“I like the concerts, they are the cumulative of everything," said Anna Kim, 16, from Syosset. "I plan on playing in an orchestra one day, and this is inspiring.”
“There’s all these different instruments and people don’t necessarily get to be in orchestras within their own schools," said Nancy Conforti, 16, from Baldwin. "They get to come here, and they get to play and learn all this music they maybe wouldn’t have a chance to otherwise."
Conforti added, "It’s the fact that they come here on a Sunday morning in their free time and they come and do this stuff, its just inspiring. I think this is going to be something that I want to do for the rest of my life.”
For information about joining LIYO, visit the orchestra's website.